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Why Hillary Clinton won't say she's running in 2016

By Paul Begala
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured in October 2012, has become one of the most powerful people in Washington. Here's a look at her life and career through the years: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured in October 2012, has become one of the most powerful people in Washington. Here's a look at her life and career through the years:
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Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
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Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Photos: Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Photos: Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The political media wants to know why Hillary Clinton went to Iowa recently
  • Paul Begala: They are almost indignant over why she won't declare her candidacy
  • Even if she want to run for president, it doesn't make sense to say it now, Begala says
  • He says it's just as likely that Hillary has not completely made up her mind

Editor's note: Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He is a consultant to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- "Are you running for president?"

"When will you announce that you're running for president?"

"Why won't you just announce that you're running for president?"

Paul Begala
Paul Begala

"You wouldn't be have gone to Iowa if you weren't running for president, would you?

Despite the world aflame, Ebola spreading and the Washington Nationals in the playoffs, it seems the only thing the political press can do is speculate about a potential Hillary presidential candidacy.

Keep in mind we are two years and two months away from the next presidential election. And yet the urgency is fierce, bordering on indignation: "Why won't she just tell us if she's running?"

Hillary's madcap media mob
Want to be President? Convince this guy

Well, why should she? An announcement now would be stupid, and Hillary is definitely not stupid.

If she were to go Open Kimono on us now it would draw attention from crucial midterm elections, siphon campaign donations from Democrats struggling to hold onto the Senate and possibly even eclipse important debates on how to fight ISIS and whether to shut down the government (again).

There is little such insistence about, say, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Indiana Gov. Mike Pence or even two-time loser Mitt Romney. We presume they're running -- just as most folks presume Hillary is. But we're not hectoring them at every turn; we're not resentful that they haven't made a formal announcement.

Probably because we just don't care as much about them. They're not leading in the polls by a million points (nor will Hillary, if and when a campaign is underway), and they simply do not rivet the national attention the way the former first lady, former senator, former secretary of state and future (?!) first female president does.

I have not been in touch with Hillary, so I do not speak with intimate knowledge. But I have known her for -- jeez, 23 years. And I actually believe her when she says she has not completely made up her mind.

Hillary is a wonk who's had to learn the rhythms of campaigning. That's very different from, say, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a glad-handing natural for whom it can be said that if an idea wanted to cross his mind it would need to bring a canteen. Hillary believes politics should be about ideas -- a clash of visions, of competing plans to promote the general welfare and provide for the common defense.

This, after all, is a woman who rings in each New Year by standing and singing "God Bless America." But there are aspects of campaigning that she loves: a vigorous honest, face-to-face debate; a town hall meeting in which folks ask substantive questions; meeting people who pour their hearts out to her, who hold their baby daughters up to her, who share their hopes and their heartbreaks with her.

So I can imagine that there is an angel on her shoulder whispering, "Who needs it?" Who needs the phoniness, the vacuity, the mind-numbing, bone-wearying, soul-crushing grind? But on the other shoulder stands another angel, whispering, "Because it's worth it." If you care about, say, universal pre-kindergarten -- an issue Hillary has cared about and worked on for decades -- or finding ways to stimulate job growth; if you care about peace abroad and supporting our military families at home; if you care about the climate crisis and full equality for LGBT Americans and voting rights and a million other issues: the best way to make turn those ideas into action is through the presidency.

Hillary will decide soon enough. In the meantime, let's let her listen to both of the angels debating for her heart. And maybe we can even give her a little breathing room as she becomes a grandmother.

We have plenty of other potential presidential candidates. I suspect they'd love the attention.

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